The Tin Man Was A Dreamer: Allegories, Poetics And Performances Of Power

June 15, 2020 - November 1, 2020

Harold E. Edgerton

Cock Fight 3409, 1934

silver gelatin print

Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Gift of Angela and David Feldman, the Menkes Family, Marc and Alex Muzzo, Tory Ross, the Rose Baum-Sommerman Family, Shabin and Nadir Mohamed

Spectacles of physical power and violence have long permeated the visual cultures of Western civilizations. Battle scenes, warriors and athletes have figured in visual art since antiquity, when victorious generals and emperors were commonly immortalized in sculpture. Presented at a time that coincides with presidential and congressional election campaigns in the United States, The Tin Man Was a Dreamer draws on these traditions while subtly responding to this historical moment by examining the ways in which power is constructed, disseminated, enacted and denied. The exhibition title refers to the Tin Man, a character from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz who earnestly sets out in search of a heart, only to discover that he has had compassion all along. The tin man as a motif also commonly appeared in American advertising and political cartoons in the late nineteenth century to symbolize workers who had been dehumanized by industrialization, or pugnacious politicians who continually assailed their opponents. Featuring works in a variety of media—from seventeenth-century paintings to contemporary video—the exhibition examines topics ranging from displays of aggression, physical posturing, the performance of the self, political theatre and the role of mass media in framing public perception.


Artists include Larry Fink, Mark Lewis, Douglas Coupland, Sorel Cohen, Fred Herzog, Jack Shadbolt, Joyce Wieland, Ruth Scheuing, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Micah Lexier, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Rineke Dijkstra, William Beechey, Elizabeth Wyn Wood, Marian Penner Bancroft, Robert Frank and Vincent Trasov, among others.

DidacticsList of WorksCuratorial Concept

Organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and curated by Grant Arnold, Audain Curator of British Columbia Art and Mandy Ginson, Assistant Curator

  • Pieter van Laer, School of

    The Brawl, c. 1630

    oil on canvas

    Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Duggan Gray, Montreal

    Photo: Rachel Topham, Vancouver Art Gallery

  • Fred Herzog

    Boys Wrestling, 1969

    inkjet print

    Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Gift of the Artist

  • Douglas Coupland

    Slogans for the 21st Century, 2011–14

    pigment prints on aluminum

    Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Gift of the Artist

    Photo: Rachel Topham, Vancouver Art Gallery

Generously supported by:

Maureen and Larry Lunn